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Fire breaks out at Cedar Rapids wastewater treatment plant, but service uninterrupted

Fire may be connected to flood renovation work at plant

Fire engines responded to the Cedar Rapids Water and Pollution Control plant, 7525 Bertram Rd. SE, for a fire this morning, Friday, Feb. 3, 2012. (Jeff Raasch/The Gazette)
Fire engines responded to the Cedar Rapids Water and Pollution Control plant, 7525 Bertram Rd. SE, for a fire this morning, Friday, Feb. 3, 2012. (Jeff Raasch/The Gazette)

UPDATE: A two-alarm fire at the Cedar Rapids wastewater treatment plant Friday morning will not lead to any environmental contamination, officials said.

No one was hurt in the fire, which was reported around 7:20 a.m. Some damage was reported, but the extent and impacts it would have were still being investigated, officials said.

Firefighters responded to the plant at 7525 Bertram Rd. SE after workers discovered flames and smoke near the roof of the incinerator building. They determined the problem originated along a second-floor conveyor running from the solid de-watering building to the incinerator building, both of which are near the main entrance to the sprawling property.

Crews were on scene for more than two hours, extinguishing the fire and checking to make sure it didn’t extend to other areas.

Greg Buelow, spokesman for the fire department, said the fire damaged the conveyor near a channel opening that also includes conduit and piping. He said the fire spread into a wall on the incinerator building, but crews were able to control it before it did much damage near the roof.

A series of conveyors deliver bio-solids and waste products to an incinerator, but the incinerator has been shut down since September, as rehabilitation from the 2008 flood continues. Megan Murphy, the city’s utilities spokeswoman, said it was expected to be back online at the end of February, and was being tested in recent days.

Asked whether the fire may have been related to the testing procedures, Murphy said, “We’re definitely considering it.”

Plant Manager Steve Hershner said power was shut off to the solid de-watering building, where several processes are used to thicken the waste. He said other alternatives exist to treat the waste, and there would be no environmental impacts as a result of the fire.

“With a process like this, you always have alternatives,” Hershner said.During the renovations to the incinerator building, the treated waste went to local farmers to spread on farm fields or to a landfill, Murphy said.

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